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Home  >  News  >  National Clinical Director Describes Death Threats to Guild Gathering


National Clinical Director Describes Death Threats to Guild Gathering

                                                                                                              Saturday September 9 2023

Outgoing National Convener of the Church of Scotland Guild Helen Eckford with the National Clinical Director for Scotland, Professor Jason Leitch CBE.


THE National Clinical Director of Scotland today (Saturday) described how he had received death threats at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Addressing the Annual Gathering of the Church of Scotland in Edinburgh, Professor Jason Leitch said: “I have seen the best and worst of mankind during this period. I had death threats – bullets and white powder sent through the post.” But addressing more than 900 Guild delegates on a theme of Hope: during and after a pandemic, he said this response had come from a minority of people.

“I have seen the best in people. People have stepped up to do more than they would.”

He urged all present to get vaccinated if they were called for vaccination and paid tribute to the work of the Church of Scotland and CrossReach – the Social Care Council of the Church during the pandemic.

In a wide-ranging address he charted the history of the pandemic – and the hope given by the Covid-19 vaccine and offered an insight into a different kind of hope through the lens of the charity work he undertakes at an orphanage in Repalle, India where youngsters have a chance of education and a career thanks to the creation of a nursing school on the site.

He also spoke of his own personal faith as a Baptist and said it was ‘one of the reasons I have done what I have done in the last three or four years’ admitted he ‘had not always got it right’, specifically “cancelling Christmas in October 2020”.

In a candid question and answer session he confirmed he and his family had already had Covid-19 – picked up when travel restrictions began to ease.

Earlier, the Gathering heard how more than £300,000 had been raised for the six partner projects of the Church of Scotland Guild.

Support for the projects – Beat (There Is Hope), Pioneers (Spice Island Chocolate Project), Starchild Uganda (a centre for children with learning disabilities), the Vine Trust (the Kazunzu Village of Hope in Tanzania), Home for Good (a charity in Scotland focussing on fostering and adoption) and Unida (Faith in the Future) - will continue until the end of 2024 said General Secretary Karen Gillon, speaking at the Guild’s Annual Gathering in Edinburgh today.

Guilds were not able to meet during 2021 – the first year of the three-year partnership.

In her opening address, outgoing National Convener Helen Eckford from Port Glasgow New Parish Church said: “We can’t continue to exist in the old. The future of the Guild depends on us making the necessary changes. Changes that we need to make if the Guild is going to survive and if our churches are going to survive… we need to trust and follow God and be prepared to go beyond our comfort zone.”

The Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the Rt Rev Sally Foster Fulton reflected on the Guild’s new theme of New Wine, New Wineskins: “It seems to be in the very nature of new things to make space to stretch, to grow and to breathe.”

She added: “The Church of Scotland along with other faith communities is facing great change,” and citing the Church’s two declarations to work more closely with the Scottish Episcopal Church and the Catholic Church in Scotland, she said: “Being the body of Christ in Scotland today and tomorrow is going to need our willingness to imagine new spaces and collaborative solutions.”

Outlining Guild plans for the year ahead, General Secretary Karen Gillon said applications for the new three-year Guild partnerships for January 2025 to December 2027 were due to open next week.

The number had been reduced from six to four (two at home and two overseas) to reflect changes in the nature and membership of the Guild.

The Gathering also marked the handover of the office of National Convener of the Guild to Rae Lind from Irvine and Kilmarnock Guilds Together.

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